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This Day in Military History

JAN11929MAJ Carl A. Spaatz and his modified Fokker C2-3 trimotor lift off for a record-setting flight that lasts 150 hours and 40 minutes. The Question Mark takes on 5,700 gallons of fuel from 43 in-flight refuelings as it flies back and forth between San Diego and Santa Monica, California.
JAN11945After two weeks of weather delays, the German Luftwaffe musters all available pilots and aircraft to execute their top-secret operation to wipe out Allied air forces and gain air superiority over France, Holland and Belgium. 120 Royal Air Force and 20 American warplanes are destroyed on the ground, but one-quarter of the German force - 200 aircraft - are lost (many due to friendly fire). The last-ditch Operation BODENPLATTE will be the Luftwaffe's final major strategic operation of the war.
JAN11946A solitary U.S. soldier registering American graves on Corregidor is interrupted by 20 Japanese soldiers waving a flag of surrender. The men had lived in a tunnel on the island and learned of Japan's surrender months before by spotting a newspaper while on a foraging mission.
JAN11951Half a million Communist Chinese and North Korean troops launch a new offensive, hammering away at the UN forces falling back from the 38th Parallel. As the South Korean capital of Seoul is about to fall into enemy hands a second time, GEN Douglas MacArthur informs the Japanese that they may have to rearm due to the threat. However, the overextended and exhausted communists break off the attack by month's end.
JAN11962U.S. Navy SEAL Teams "One" and "Two" are established. The special warfare operators, created for guerilla and counter-guerilla operations, are drawn from the ranks of the Navy's Underwater Demolition Teams. Team One is headquartered at Naval Amphibious Base (NAB) Coronado on the West Coast and Two at NAB Little Creek on the East Coast.
JAN21863MG William S. Rosecrans' Army of the Cumberland narrowly defeats GEN Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee in Murphysboro. Losses were heavy: roughly one-third of the 42,000 Union and 35,000 Confederate soldiers are killed, wounded, or missing. In fact, casualty percentages were higher during the Battle of Stones River than during any other engagement during the Civil War.
JAN21942Manila falls to Japanese LTG Masaharu Homma's 14th Army, as well as the naval base at Cavite and Clark Field.
JAN21951When enemy machine gun fire from an adjacent hill tear into SFC Junior D. Edwards and his platoon near Changbong-ni, Edwards rushes the nest. He temporarily drives off the enemy gun crew until running out of ammunition and has to cross the killzone a second time for additional grenades. Upon returning, he kills the remaining crew, but another machine gun opens fire on his position. Racing through enemy fire again for more grenades, he manages to neutralize the second position. Edwards falls while making yet another assault against the enemy and will posthumously be awarded the Medal of Honor.
JAN21967COL Robin Olds' 8th Tactical Fighter Wing - the "Wolfpack" - wipes out half of North Vietnam's MiG 21 fighter fleet in Operation BOLO. Olds' advanced F-4C "Phantoms" tricked Communist intelligence into thinking the advanced fighters were just another easy target of F-105 "Thunderchief" fighter-bombers by flying at altitudes, speeds, routes, and using radio callsigns typical to the less maneuverable F-105s. When the MiGs flew into Olds' ambush, seven "Fishbeds" are shot down in 12 minutes. Olds scores one of the victories, making him the only Air Force ace with kills in both World War II and Vietnam.
JAN21994The F-4G "Wild Weasel V" flies its last combat mission, during a flight over Iraq. During Operation DESERT STORM, the Wild Weasel crews took on the dangerous role of targeting Iraqi air defense networks, destroying some 200 sites.
JAN31777GEN George Washington defeats a British force under LTC Charles Mawhood in the Battle of Princeton.
JAN31861Four companies of Alabama volunteers led by COL John B. Todd capture Fort Morgan in Mobile Bay.
JAN31944Over Rabaul, New Guinea, MAJ George "Pappy" Boyington's F4U "Corsair" is shot down after the Marine aviator scores his 26th official victory. The former "Flying Tiger" and commander of VMF-214 will spend the remainder of the war - 20 months - in Japanese captivity and is awarded the Medal of Honor upon his repatriation.
JAN31944Off the coast of New Jersey, the destroyer USS Turner (DD-648) suffers a series of explosions - possibly due to a German U-boat attack - and sinks, taking 15 officers and 123 men with her. A Coast Guard HNS-1 helicopter flown by LCDR Frank A. Erickson flies in life-saving plasma to the scene, marking the first time a helicopter is used in a rescue role.
JAN31945ADM Chester Nimitz is placed in command of all naval forces and GEN Douglas MacArthur is charge of ground operations.
JAN31945First Army attacks the Germans as they retreat from the "bulge" in the Ardennes, as 1,100 bombers and 11 groups of fighter escorts hammer railroad and communication centers in western Germany.
JAN41847The U.S. Ordnance Department orders 1,000 revolvers designed by Samuel. Colt and Texas Ranger CPT Samuel H. Walker. The powerful firearm features a revolving cylinder that can effectively fire its six .44 bullets up to 100 yards.
JAN41910USS Michigan (BB-27), America's first dreadnought battleship, is commissioned. The massive ship features eight 12-inch guns mounted in twin turrets, which are capable of sending an 870-lb. projectile over 11 miles away and could penetrate over 16 inches of armor.
JAN41943Off the coast of Munda Island, USS Helena (CL-50) shoots down a Japanese Type 99 Val bomber, marking the first kill using Variable Timing (proximity-fused) anti-aircraft shells.
JAN41944U.S. Army Air Force and Royal Air Force bombers begin dropping weapons and supplies to resistance fighters in France, Belgium, and Italy during Operation CARPETBAGGER.
JAN41951The South Korean capital of Seoul falls into enemy hands for a second time.
JAN41989Two Libyan MiG-23 "Flogger" fighters approach two F-14 "Tomcats" from the carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) flying a combat air patrol mission over the Mediterranean Sea. The Tomcats engage and splash the MiGs in the first dogfight for the U.S. military since a 1981 engagement with Libya. Muammar Gaddafi claims that the U.S. Navy shot down unarmed reconnaissance planes, but gun camera footage shows the world that the fighters were armed with missiles.
JAN51781BG Benedict Arnold captures and burns Richmond, Virginia with a force of 1,600 redcoats.
JAN51855A landing party from the USS Plymouth skirmishes with Chinese forces near Canton during the Taiping Rebellion.
JAN51861Fort Sumter is surrounded by Confederate forces. The civilian merchant vessel Star of the West departs New York for the besieged Federal troops with supplies and 250 reinforcements.
JAN51875U.S. Navy CDR Edward Lull leads an expedition to locate the best route for the Panama Canal.
JAN51904Marines arrive in Korea to defend the U.S. legation assembly at Seoul.
JAN51945Japanese pilots receive their first order to execute kamikaze suicide tactics.
JAN5195159 B-29 "Superforts" hammer Pyongyang with nearly 700 tons of bombs and the 18th Fighter-Bomber Group takes off from Suwon Air Base for the final time. The base is destroyed in the face of an advancing Chinese and North Korean military.
JAN51967U.S. and South Vietnamese Marines conduct a joint amphibious assault of the Mekong Delta. The goal of Operation DECKHOUSE V is to capture Viet Cong prisoners from the Thanh Phu Secret Zone, and it is the first time U.S. troops operate in the delta.
JAN51970SSG Franklin D. Miller was leading a long range patrol of Special Forces soldiers and Montagnards in Laos when a booby trap wounded several members. A firefight ensued, wounding the entire patrol. Despite a serious chest wound, Miller is the last man standing and keeps up the fight for several hours, holding off repeated enemy assaults against their position. That evening, as he is about to exhaust his ammunition, a team arrives to relieve the Green Berets.
JAN52002Air Force C-17 cargo planes deliver materials at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba so the "Seabees" can construct a detention facility for captured Al Qaeda and Taliban detainees.
JAN61777GEN George Washington sets up winter camp for the Continental Army in the hills surrounding Morristown, N.J.
JAN61861Florida militia forces seize the Union Apalachicola Arsenal, which is defended by Ordnance SGT Edwin Powell and three laborers. Powell was prepared to fight if ordered to hold and initially refuses to surrender the keys to the magazines or armory. But when the militia allows him to send a telegram to his command for instruction - and he receives no response - he reluctantly concedes.
JAN61927U.S. Marines return to Nicaragua to protect American lives and property.
JAN61942President Franklin Roosevelt informs Congress that he is authorizing the largest armaments production in United States history: eight million tons of shipping, 45,000 planes, and 45,000 tanks, and 20,000 anti-aircraft guns will roll off assembly lines within the year.
JAN61944BG Frank Merrill is designated to lead the 5307th Composite Unit (provisional), a long-range penetration special operations unit, now popularly known as Merrill's Marauders.
JAN61968Army helicopter pilot MAJ Patrick H. Brady conducted multiple medical evacuation missions in South Vietnam in dense fog and in the face of heavy enemy fire. Over the course of the day, he rescued 51 soldiers and 400 bullet holes were counted in the three helicopters he flew.
JAN111944In the skies over Oschersleben, Germany, MAJ James H. Howard is leading a group of P-51 “Mustangs”, escorting a formation of B-17 “Flying Fortress” heavy bombers. When Luftwaffe fighters intercept the group, Howard immediately shoots down a Messerschmitt Bf-110 long range fighter. Upon returning, he finds 30 German pilots attacking the bombers. Without any tactical advantage, he nonetheless single-handedly attacks the enemy planes, shooting down three, and damaging or possibly destroying three more. Gen. Carl A. Spaatz presents Howard with the Medal of Honor to Howard in June.
JAN111945Near Bastogne, Belgium, SSG Archer T. Gammon’s platoon is advancing through the woods when it is targeted by a German machine gun position. Archer wades through waist-deep snow to attack the position, eliminating it with grenades. Now rid of the deadly obstacle, the platoon moves forward again, but runs into a hornet’s nest of machine guns, infantry, and a tank. Despite hostile fire zeroing in on him, he again charges forward and eliminates another machine gun nest with grenades and closes within 25 yards of the vehicle while eliminating soldiers protecting their tank. Gammon's daring assault proves to be too much for the enemy armor, but as it fires a parting shot, an 88-mm shells scores a direct hit on the daring American staff sergeant. Gammon is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
JAN111945During the American invasion of Luzon Island in the Philippines, CPT William A. Shomo was leading an armed reconnaissance mission of two P-51 “Mustangs”. He and his wingman spotted a formation of Japanese fighters escorting a Mitsubishi G4M “Betty” bomber. Although outnumbered 13-2, the American aviators began the attack. Shomo shot down three fighters, then the bomber they were protecting. He will shoot down three more enemy fighters and his wingman, LT Paul Lipscomb, scores three. Shomo’s seven victories give him the second-highest single mission tally for U.S. pilots in history, and he is awarded the Medal of Honor.
JAN111969While leading an armored convoy down a highway in Vietnam’s Binh Long Province, 1LT Harold A. Fritz’s formation is ambushed. Surrounded on all sides and in danger of being overrun, Fritz – who had been wounded in the initial moments – disregards his injuries and heavy enemy fire, leaping from his vehicle to rally his men, directing them to reposition and shift their fire. As the battle wore on, a group of enemy soldiers closed in on the unit. Fritz, armed with just a pistol and bayonet, and some of his fellow men defeat the infiltrating force. Upon arrival of the relief force, Fritz again braves incoming fire to direct the unit.
JAN121945Warplanes from the U.S. Navy’s carrier Task Force 38 under the command of VADM John Sidney McCain Sr. (grandfather of Senator John S. McCain III), attack enemy convoys and bases along the coast of Japanese-held French Indochina (Vietnam) in the Battle of the South China Sea.
JAN121962Ten miles west of Saigon, U.S. Army H-21 flying banana helicopters ferry South Vietnamese paratroopers into battle - the first major American combat operation in what will become the Vietnam War.
JAN121962The U.S. military begins defoliation operations to deny the Viet Cong use of jungle cover for their movements. Over nine years, Operation RANCH HAND pilots, whose motto was "Only you can prevent forests," would fly 19,000 sorties and drop an estimated 20 million gallons of defoliant.
JAN121973An F-4 Phantom flown by U.S. Navy LTs Vic Kovaleski and Jim Wise splash a MiG-17, making it the Navy’s final air-to-air kill and the last aerial-combat kill of the war.
JAN121991With President George H.W. Bush having already deployed 500,000 U.S. troops to the Persian Gulf, Congress passes an Authorization for Use of Military Force against Iraq.
AUG231944Iin Brittany, SSG Alvin P. Carrey spots an enemy machinegun nest 200 yards up a hill that is pinning down his soldiers. He grabs as many grenades as he can carry and has his soldiers cover him, then crawls up the hill. Carrey shoots a German soldier on the way up, then begins hurling grenades at the enemy position - drawing the machine gunners' fire. Although mortally wounded, he still manages to hurl a grenade right on target, killing the crew and knocking their guns out. Carrey is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
AUG231950Over 70,000 Army Reservists are ordered to report for duty during the Korean War.
AUG231964A Lockheed YC-130 prototype takes off for its first flight - a 61-minute trip from the Lockheed plant in Burbank, California, to Edwards Air Force Base. Designed to haul a tank and take off/land on short, primitive fields, the plane lifts off in just 800 feet. Once it becomes operational, the versatile C-130 Hercules can even make takeoffs and landings on an aircraft carrier without using the catapult or wires.
AUG231990As American forces continue deployment to the Persian Gulf for Operation DESERT SHIELD, 46,000 Reservists are called up.
AUG231996Osama bin Laden issues his first fatwa, declaring war on the United States for, among other reasons, maintaining a military presence in Saudi Arabia. The founder of the terrorist group Al Qaeda's message isn't taken seriously until bombs kill over 200 people at American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya two years later.
AUG241814British soldiers and Royal Marines clash with an American force of militia and a detachment of Marines and sailors in the Battle of Bladensburg. The professional British troops easily scatter the militia but run into a wall when they square off against the Marines. In their first volley, the leathernecks destroy an entire company of the King's men then pursue their foe into a ravine.
AUG241912The Navy's first electrically powered ship, USS Jupiter (AC-3) is launched. Ten years later, a flight deck is added to the 542-ft. vessel, and the renamed USS Langley becomes America's first aircraft carrier.
AUG241942VADM Frank J. Fletcher's Task Force 61 and a Japanese carrier division converge in the Solomon Islands as Japanese troops attempt to reinforce Guadalcanal. The Battle of the Eastern Solomons is fought entirely by aircraft; the Japanese inflict serious damage on USS Enterprise (CV-6), while the Americans sink several vessels, including the light carrierRyujo.
AUG241942Over Guadalcanal, Japanese warplanes clash with Army and Marine aircraft of the "Cactus Air Force," with CPT Marion E. Carl in his F4F Wildcat scoring four of the day's ten Allied victories, becoming the Marine Corps' first ace.
AUG241945CPO Bob Feller returns to Cleveland and is honored by a parade before pitching in his first major league game since becoming the first professional athlete to enlist in the Armed Forces during World War II. Despite losing nearly four years to his military service - Feller served aboard the battleship USS Alabama - the future Hall of Famer strikes out 12 batters and only allows four hits in the Indians 4-2 win over the Detroit Tigers.
AUG241969In Quang Tri Province, a team of 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion Marines are ambushed by machinegun and automatic weapon fire in the early morning hours. LCPL Richard A. Anderson is hit in both legs and knocked to the ground, where he takes up a prone position and pours suppressive fire into the enemy. He keeps up the attack, despite being wounded again. As a medic treats his wounds, Anderson spots an enemy grenade landing in their position. He rolls on top of the grenade and absorbs the deadly blast with his body, saving several nearby Marines. Anderson is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
AUG251921The United States and Germany finally sign a peace treaty. Meanwhile, coalmine workers attempting to unionize in West Virginia begin fighting with law enforcement and strike breakers in what becomes the largest insurrection since the Civil War. Over one million rounds are fired during the so-called "Battle of Blair Mountain" before hostilities come to an end once President Warren Harding authorizes the Army to intervene.
AUG251941Richard "Dick" Winters - the famous commander of the 101st Airborne Division's "Easy" Company - enlists in the Army, entering basic training at Camp Croft in South Carolina. Winters will soon be selected for Officer Candidate School and go on to join COL Robert Sink's 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment in 1942. Winters and his men jump into Sainte-Mère-Église on D-Day and that day will lead a daring attack on German 88mm guns firing on Utah Beach. For his actions in the Brécourt Manor Assault, GEN Omar Bradley awards Winters with the Distinguished Service Cross - the Army's second-highest award for valor.
AUG251942The Japanese supply fleet carrying reinforcements and supplies for the garrison on Guadalcanal is turned back after taking heavy damage from American air- and land-based aircraft. Several warships are lost, along with hundreds of sailors, soldiers, and many irreplaceable pilots.
AUG251944The 2d Armored Division and 4th Infantry Division enter Paris, capturing the French capital from German troops. Garrison commander GEN Dietrich von Choltitz surrenders his remaining forces that afternoon, ending four years of Nazi occupation.
AUG251945While leading an intelligence operation for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), CPT John M. Birch (USAAF) is killed by Chinese communist soldiers. Birch's death is considered the first American casualty of the Cold War. During World War II, Birch assisted BG Jimmy Doolittle and his Raiders as they traveled across China, and Doolittle recommended that COL Claire Chennault should commission the American missionary as an officer for the "Flying Tigers." Hoping to become a chaplain, Birch instead ended up as an intelligence officer.
AUG251950As railroad workers prepare to strike during the Korean War, President Harry Truman issues an executive order stating that rail transport is "essential to the national defense and security of the Nation" and places the U.S. Army in charge of the critical infrastructure.
AUG251967Robert McNamara states that Operation ROLLING THUNDER has had little effect on North Vietnam's war-making capabilities. Although the military has dropped more bombs so far in the Vietnam War than it had during all of World War II, President Lyndon Johnson's policy of dictating targets from Washington hamstrings his commanders, who would otherwise have been able to carry out the campaign by choosing targets that would permit them to accomplish their political objectives.
AUG261950The 5th Regimental Combat Team (RCT) replaces the 34th Infantry Regiment which was utterly decimated by a series of delaying actions against the North Korean Army. Since only 184 soldiers remained out of the regiment's original strength of 1,898, surviving 34th Infantry soldiers are used to fill holes in other units and the regiment is reconstituted in Japan.
AUG261950When a force of enemy soldiers attempts to overrun MSG Melvin O. Handrich's company, he leaves the relative safety of his position behind and moves forward, where he will spend the next eight hours directing mortar and artillery fire on the enemy. When the hostile force makes another attempt to overrun the American position, Handrich observes friendly soldiers attempting to withdraw. He crosses the fire-swept ground to rally them and returns to his forward post. Refusing medical care or even to seek cover, the North Koreans eventually cut down Handrich. But when U.S. soldiers retake the ground, they count 70 dead enemy surrounding Handrich's body.
AUG261957Following the launch of the Soviet Union's R-7 Semyorka missile, state-run news agency TASS announces that the USSR has successfully tested a multi-stage intercontinental ballistic missile that could target "any place in the world."
AUG261993The 75th Ranger Regiment's 3rd Battalion and operators from Special Forces Operational Detatchment-Delta deploy to Somalia to capture the warlord Mohammad Farrah Aidid.
AUG271776Five days after 15,000 British soldiers land on Long Island, GEN William Howe's forces attack the Patriots garrisoned at Brooklyn Heights. GEN George Washington's troops are flanked by the Redcoats during the first major battle of the Revolutionary War and suffer some 2,000 casualties before retreating to their redoubt at Brooklyn.
AUG271776GEN Howe ordered his troops to prepare for a siege. However, in two days, the entire 10,000-man army slips through the Royal Navy stationed along the East River and evacuates (with their arms and supplies) to Manhattan. Washington is the last man to leave.
AUG271918U.S. and Mexican Army soldiers, along with militia and armed civilians, clash along the border between Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Mexico. A handful of U.S. soldiers are killed and over 100 Mexicans, but the battle is over when the Americans seize the high ground overlooking the two Nogales on the Mexican side. Following the battle, a chain-link fence is installed, splitting the two towns and becoming the first permanent border fence between the United States and Mexico.
AUG271945B-29 bombers begin airdropping supplies to U.S. prisoners of war held in China.
AUG271972While U.S. aircraft execute the heaviest day of bombing in four years, leveling scores of barracks and targeting North Vietnamese rail lines to China, a four-ship formation enters Haiphong harbor at night and shells military targets. While the heavy cruiser USS Newport News, the guided-missile cruiser USS Providence, and the destroyers USS Robison and USS Rowan head back to sea, they spot four Soviet-built patrol boats in pursuit. Naval gunfire and tactical air support sink three of the four vessels in what becomes one of the very few surface engagements of the Vietnam War.